Wednesday felt like an inflection point in Minnesota sports.
Zach Parise was a healthy scratch for the first time in his Wild career, and Minnesota went out hours later and lost 5-1 at Vegas.
The Wolves were blown out (again) and headed into the All-Star break with a 7-29 record and a healthy dose of frustration nagging franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Gophers men's basketball team lost another lopsided game, continuing both their late-season slide and questions about coach Richard Pitino's future.
I talked about all of those things on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast, and now we can focus squarely on just one of those three.
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The last two things don't figure to have any resolution until late next week at the earliest. The Wolves have a week off to recharge and sort themselves out. Nothing figures to be decided about Pitino until after the Gophers' season is over — a point that likely will come next week with a loss in the Big Ten Tournament.
But the Wild? It has big games Friday and Saturday at Arizona, then rematches with Vegas back in Minnesota on both Monday and Wednesday. The games come fast and furious in this shortened NHL season, particularly for the Wild after having to reschedule six games due to a COVID pause.
Before the chain of events involving Parise, the Wild had won six consecutive games. They were headed toward a seventh when Parise stayed on the ice too long — while in pursuit of helping Marcus Foligno get a hat trick — and had some direct responsibility in the tying goal being scored in an eventual overtime loss to Vegas.
The next game, he was scratched. He didn't "agree" with the decision and insisted even after the fact that "I know in my heart I had the best of intentions" about trying to get Foligno his first career hat trick.
It was a weak explanation, but the more important messages are yet to come.
As our Chip Scoggins already noted, the decision to bench Parise was a power play of sorts that 1) has roots deeper than one game and 2) wouldn't happen (and didn't happen) under previous regimes.
If Parise is correct and his teammates support him 100%, what happens next will be interesting. The Wild already lost 5-1 in the game Parise missed. That might have happened even if he had played against a strong Vegas team.
But Minnesota's energy level and output bears watching going forward. Was the decision to bench Parise one that will make the Wild stronger in the long run and reinforce coach Dean Evason's message of accountability, or will it end up being a turning point in the wrong direction for a season that started off with significant promise?
That's what I want to know, and we will get a good clue when the Wild plays Arizona on Friday night.
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